If it weren’t enough that some American universities have featured students trying to suppress Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro’s right to free speech by protesting his right to speak on campus, now the trend is hitting Canada.
The University of British Columbia’s Free Speech Club (FSC) has invited Shapiro to speak at the Chan Centre this October. That’s not surprising, as Thea Udwadia of the campus newspaper The Ubyssey, reports: "According to polls in the FSC’s Facebook page, Shapiro has been the club’s most requested speaker for the past year and a half."
But, as The Ubyssey highlights, on June 10, one fifth-year arts student urged the UBC Needs Feminism Facebook group to write to the Provost, the VP Academic, and the Equity offices to demand Shapiro be prevented from speaking. The student, Reid Marcus, wrote, "Shapiro is neither a scholar nor an activist. He is a pundit who amplifies puerile prejudices in order to advance his career."
Marcus claimed Shapiro speaking would violate British Columbia's Human Rights Code’s section on discriminatory publication, as well as the university's policy on discrimination and harassment and its Statement on Respectful Environment. He also suggested Shapiro’s very presence would endanger students.
By June 14, the Provost's office had received roughly 10 letters.
Angelo Isidorou, director of the FSC, pointed out that there would be ample room for dialogue. "I don’t want the whole Q&A to be a line of conservative bros just saying 'Hey, do you agree with me?' and then he says, 'Yeah I agree with you,'" said Isidorou, The Ubyssey reports. "The whole reason for our event is so that we can see both sides, we can see some dialogue."
Shapiro always starts the Q&A session following his speeches by inviting people with views opposed to his to come to the front of the line.
But that’s not good enough for Marcus, who decried the futility of "performative debate," claiming that the few minutes given for views counter to the speaker's is simply not enough. "It is not a good way to either arrive at truth, or actually productively deal with controversial issues," he said, Udwadia reports. "And I think it’s negligent, and it’s irresponsible for universities to allow that to occur. I think that the debate is over. We, as a civilization, have kind of decided that you shouldn’t go around dehumanizing people."
However, Provost and VP Academic Andrew Szeri underscored in a statement to The Ubyssey that the university remains committed to promoting free speech, even if some are offended by that speech. "UBC’s commitment to free speech includes student groups and others using UBC venues such as the Chan Centre for guest speakers," said Szeri. "This is the case even where some members of the University community may consider the guest speaker’s ideas, or the way in which they expressed, to be controversial or offensive."